This week, the FCC designated for hearing the license renewal applications for a number of Alabama radio stations because of their owner’s conviction on felony ethics violations, stemming from misconduct while he served in the Alabama legislature. The hearing is to determine the effect of those felony convictions on the character of the licensee to hold a broadcast license. The Communications Act requires that a broadcast licensee (and its owners) must have the requisite character to operate the station. Character is reviewed whenever a party seeks to acquire a broadcast license, including when they file for the renewal of that license. In egregious circumstances, the FCC can even move to revoke the licenses held by a licensee outside of the license renewal process. Even the sale of a license by a party without the required character qualifications may be prohibited by the FCC, as the Commission does not want to see a wrongdoer profit from the disposition of what is seen as a government asset – the FCC license.
Character has been defined by the FCC through numerous policy statements issued periodically over the last 50 years, and has been further refined by precedents established in individual cases. This week’s case gives us the opportunity to look at what conduct the FCC considers in assessing the character of any broadcast application, and the factors that are reviewed in determining the impact of bad conduct on the ability of the applicant to hold an FCC license.
Continue Reading FCC to Hold Hearing to Determine What Felony Conviction of Station Owner Means for License Renewal – What Does the FCC Character Policy Require of Broadcast Applicants?